New Religions
[Table of Contents]

Emperor and World Renewal in the New Religions: The Case of Shinsei Ryûjinkai[Glossary: shinsei_ryujin-kai]I

TSUSHIMA Michihito

1. Introduction

Recent years have seen a growing body of research regarding the rapid and overwhelming impact of modern Western civilization on various Third-World nations. Coming from anthropologists, sociologists, and scholars of religious studies, those reports often note the birth of folk-religious movements which protest, and aim at overthrowing, the Westernizing influence.1

Even when they exhibit the influence of imported Christian concepts, such indigenous movements tend to valorize what are considered to be the traditions of the ethnic group or culture in question. And as a result of this tendency to insist on the rejection of Western culture and customs, such movements are often said to be "nativistic." They are also often called "messianic" movements since they frequently express an anticipation of group salvation through the appearance of a world-savior or leader. And finally, these groups are also often called "apocalyptic millenial" movements due to their belief that the current evil state of the world is to be imminently overthrown in a sudden, complete, and cataclysmic way through the arrival of a supernatural power, thus paving the way for a utopia on earth.

In this sense, the social and cultural friction brought on by Japan's early modernization and Westernization was likewise the matrix for a variety of folk-religious movements strongly nativistic in orientation and characterized by the vision of a fundamental reordering of the world through the appearance and guidance of a messianic leader. Already as early as the late 1880s new religions such as Tenrikyô and Maruyama-kyô[Glossary: maruyama-kyo] were demonstrating - in rather embryonic form, to be sure - an expectancy for a millenial restructuring of the world. Similarly, Deguchi Nao[Glossary: deguchi_nao] (foundress of Ômotokyô) began recording her "tip of the pen" writings (Ofudesaki[Glossary: ofudesaki]) in 1893; with its simple, straightforward means of expression and energetic call to repentance, the Ofudesaki had one of the most powerful impacts among all the messages of world rebuilding and renewal expressed by any of the new religions in Japan.

Within Japan's entire history of early modernization, however, the highest tide of millenial anticipation - or its greatest impact - was likely felt in the period from the mid-Taishô era (1912-1926) to the close of World War II.2 During that period, a good portion of new religious movements took their impetus from the motif of millenarian renewal. And that revolutionary motif was adopted in spite of the grave danger of suppression by governmental authorities. From what can be currently ascertained, it appears that this kind of vision was promoted and used to motivate people by a significant number of groups in the period, including at least Ômotokyô (Kôdô Ômoto), Tenri Honmichi[Glossary: tenri_honmichi] (Tenri Kenkyûkai[Glossary: tenri_kenkyukai]), Shintô Tenkôkyo[Glossary: shindo_tenkokyo],II Shinsei Ryûjinkai[Glossary: shinsei_ryujin-kai], Shôroku Shintô Yamatoyama[Glossary: shoroku_shinto_yamatoyama], Tenri Sanrinkô (and others sects taking their lineage from Tenri Honmichi), Matsushita Soshindô[Glossary: soshindo], Jiu[Glossary: jiu] (Jikôson), and Tenshô Kôtai Jingûkyô[Glossary: tensho_kotai_jingukyo].3

At the same time, the millenarian elements of the new religions in this period have yet to be studied adequately. Which is to say that the tendency has been to limit research to that group of sects typified by Ômotokyô and Tenri Honmichi. Certainly, the millenarian thought and behavior of these movements may be considered typical, both quantitatively and qualitiatively, of Japan of this period. These groups have also been a prime focus of attention due to their suffering from sustained governmental suppression. But in order to achieve the optimum grasp - in both breadth and depth, or common features and diversity - of the expectations toward renewal experienced by the people of the period, it will be necessary to engage comparative research which takes account of various other movements as well. And it may be that such comparative work, in turn, results in a reevaluation of Ômotokyô and Tenrikyô.

By means of a tentative response to this need, I want to consider the renewal concepts and other characteristics of a movement called Shinsei Ryûjinkai, a group founded on the peripheries of Ômotokyô by Yano Yûtarô[Glossary: yano_yutaro], and which developed its own unique vision of millenarian renewal.

2. Yano Yûtarô and the Shinsei Ryûjinkai Movement

The Shinsei Ryûjinkai was founded in 1934 by Yano Yûtarô, a captain in the Japanese navy, and it disappeared just eighteen months later, victim of suppression by Japanese government authorities. Virtually no research has been focused on the group, due both to its mystical orientation around a small coterie of adherents, and to the fact that it was extremely short lived. At the same time, the group is noteworthy for its closely detailed and systematic form of rebuilding and renewal thought, and due to its program of behavior which, while unique, demonstrated elements characteristic of other contemporary religious groups.4

Yano was born in Tsukiji, Tokyo in 1881,5 son of a train engineer who "served Emperor Meiji by operating the imperial train."6 His father was also said to be an adherent of the Nichiren sect of Buddhism. Yano graduated from Tsukiji Middle School and the Japanese Naval Academy, and began a career as a naval officer. In 1902 he was promoted to the rank of ensign and stationed on the flagship Mikasa during the Russo-Japanese War. It was said that he saw service during the great battle with the Russian fleet in the Japan Sea. He later served as an instructor at the Japanese Naval Academy, an ordnance director, and chief of naval ammunition and ordnance. From 1913 to 1916 he traveled to Europe as a naval embassy attache. Finally, in 1919 he was promoted to the rank of captain. In his naval duties he was active primarily in technical fields, and was said to have contributed to the improvement of naval weapons and ships.7

Together with his interest in the physical, material world, however, Yano also seems to have expressed an early fascination with things of the spiritual world. He involved himself deeply in techniques of mental concentration, hypnosis and other methods meant to develop mental and spiritual power. He also believed in the existence of the spirit world and was avid in studying parapsychological phenomena, and he showed a familiarity with Shinto spirit theories such as those advocated by Kawatsura Bonji[Glossary: kawatsura_bonji] (1862-1929).

With this kind of personal interests, it was not at all unusual that Yano was drawn to the new religion Ômotokyô. Just beginning to attract widespread attention, Ômotokyô called for a "Taishô Restoration," while using such religious techniques as "spirit pacification" (chinkon kishin[Glossary: chinkon_kishin]III). At that time, the vice-admiral and member of Ômotokyô Asano[Glossary: asano_wasaburo] Masayasu was serving as an intermediary between the headquarters of the new religion and its members in the navy, and it is said that Yano was one of the men Asano introduced to the group.

Yano became interested in Ômotokyô and visited its Ayabe headquarters in 1917, where he received the "spirit pacification" ritual from Asano Wasaburô[Glossary: asano_wasaburo] (1873-1935), who was Masayasu's younger brother and a leader within Ômotokyô. But in this first contact with Ômotokyô, rather than the teachings of Deguchi Onisaburô (1871-1948), it was the Ofudesaki of Deguchi Nao (1837-1918) which drew Yano's greatest interest. Ômotokyô was at that time composed of numerous divergent schisms, including one devoted to the foundress Deguchi Nao (the "foundress group") and one which placed emphasis on Onisaburô (the "great teacher group"). In turn, each of the groups made its own independent interpretations of Nao's Ofudesaki. Within this relatively liberal ambience, Yano also undertook his own research on the Ofudesaki, and in 1918 he went so far as to move with his family to the Ayabe area.

In 1923 at the age of forty-one, Yano resigned his active naval commission and entered the reserves. He later traveled to China and engaged himself as an arms merchant for the Japanese military, living a life typical of many Japanese who went to the continent in that period. Unfortunately, many lacunae remain in the accounts of Yano's life during this period, making it difficult to understand the kind of changes he underwent in mental attitude and general circumstance as he moved to Ayabe, resigned his naval commission, and moved to China. According to the "Postscript" to Yano's Shinrei seiten [Spirit scriptures], Yano's resignation from the navy was done as a gesture of "passing on the reins" to a younger generation of officers.8 The fact that it occurred immediately following the oppression of Ômotokyô in the so-called "first Ômoto incident"IV (1921), however, may indicate that some kind of pall had been cast over Yano's military career by the incident. It would be enlightening to know how Yano reacted overall to the official suppression of the group, but no such information is available to us today.

While free on bail during trial for the first Ômoto incident, Deguchi Onisaburô[Glossary: deguchi_onisaburo] created a sensation by fleeing Japan for Manchuria in order to work for the establishment of an independent Manchurian state, and it is said that Yano was a close participant in the planning and preparation of that episode. Yano knew the military leader Marshal Zhang Zuolin, and he played the role of arranging for the reception of Onisaburô by the regional military leader Lu Zhankui.9 Also in the background to this incident was the participation of a special military mission (called the Kishi Mission, or Kishi kikan) which looked for a means of establishing a Japanese military foothold for advance into Manchuria. As a result, Yano appears to have played the role of intermediary between the military (or one part of it) and the Ômoto organization.10 This scheme, however, failed, in part due to rivalry between various military factions, and some members of the Ômoto group blamed Yano for the failure. Yano's censure resulted from the fact that the plan had been kept secret from all but a limited number of leading Ômoto members, and since more than 200,000 yen - a very large sum of money at the time - had been provided to finance the activities of persons involved.

As the upshot of this series of events, Yano became estranged from the mainline of Ômoto and began engaging more in his own unique religious activities. In 1928 he formed an association with non-mainline Ômoto groups (the Ôsaka Daimon Shôdôkai and Kyôto-fu Sekai Daimon Yagi Shibu) which were organized around Fukushima Hisako, third daughter of the Ômoto foundress Deguchi Nao. Following her mother's death, Fukushima came into conflict with the mainline Onisaburô group, and began disseminating her own revelations called "Divine admonitions at the dawn" (Hinode shin'yu), meant as a continuation of the tradition of Deguchi Nao's Fudesaki revelations. Yano's association with the Fukushima group is not unreasonable, particularly given that his original interest in Ômoto was focused on the Ofudesaki. In fact, Yano was engaged in what might be called comparative research on "revelation," involving not only the Ofudesaki and Hinode shin'yu, but also on a variety of similar revelations and admonitions left by the founders of other new religions such as Kurozumikyô[Glossary: kurozumi-kyo], Tenrikyô and Konkôkyô[Glossary: konko-kyo].

In 1929 Yano's wife Shin began to experience divine possessions and to produce "revelations" (shinji). Eventually, Yano also parted company with the Fukushima group over differences in their interpretation of the Ofudesaki. As a result, he became closer to Kuruma Matsukichi and his wife Ofusa, members of the Ômoto branch in Kimogawa, Hyôgo Prefecture.V Yano's relationship with the Kimogawa group apparently came about as a result of a visit to the area when proselytizing for the Fukushima group. Kimogawa had long been considered a traditional "holy mountain," and Onisaburô visited the area in 1914 for the purpose of performing a ritual "opening of Kimogawa" (Kimogawa biraki). Since that time it had been treated as an especially important retreat site by Ômoto, and a branch of Ômoto came to be established there. But a conflict later developed between Onisaburô and the leader of the branch, Kuruma Matsukichi, and Kuruma distanced himself from Ômoto headquarters, launching out on his own distinctive religious practice focused on the worship of a local "dragon deity" (Ryûjin[Glossary: ryujin]), together with his wife Ofusa's episodes of spirit possession.

As a result of his own wife's experience with possession, and through contact with the Kimogawa group, Yano was given an opportunity to engage in the study of what might be called "living revelation," in addition to his previous study of written revelations such as the Ofudesaki. These conditions were also influential in his eventual organization of a shamanistic religious group. Yano thus continued to consolidate his own novel religious thought regarding rebuilding and renewal following his separation from the Ômoto headquarters, and as a result, he moved a good deal between various groups peripheral to Ômoto.

The final systematization of his revivalist thought, however, was strongly influenced by yet another factor, namely his encounter with the religion Amatsukyô and the so-called Takeuchi Document (Takeuchi monjo) which the group possessed. Amatsukyô11 was a religious movement led by Takeuchi Kiyomaro[Glossary: takeuchi_kiyomaro_omaro], priest of the Kôso Kôtai Jingû in Isohara, Ibaraki Prefecture. Takeuchi claimed to be the sixty-sixth direct descendant of Takeuchi Sukune,VI and the current possessor of a number of sacred treasures which had supposedly been passed down through his family. Those treasures included the so-called "Takeuchi Document," an unusual handwritten manuscript said to be composed in characters unique to the ancient "divine age"[Glossary: jindai_moji] and recording the history of the age of emperors and their rule over Japan. Another was a symbol of divine rule in the form of a sword, said to have been made from a metal called "Hihiirokane" which fell from the sky; and a sacred image said to have been fashioned from the bones of ancient emperors (called the "divine bone image" (shinkotsu shintai); Takeuchi was said to be working to present these treasures to the imperial household.

Amatsukyô failed for a number of reasons to develop as a movement with broad popular appeal. It was not itself oriented toward mass participation, it was comparatively open and loose in its style of organization, and it underwent two official government investigations12 that focused on the group's promotion of what was said to be a spurious imperial lineage. That lineage, in turn, was said to be disrespectful of Japanese national history and its classics like Nihongi and Kojiki[Glossary: kojiki]. But Amatsukyô had considerable conceptual appeal among a certain sector of intellectuals, with the result that a variety of persons traveled to Isohara for the purpose of doing research on the document. The range of people visiting Isohara was not limited to Shintoists or imperial loyalists, but also included individuals oriented toward the Japanization of Christianity, figures such as Sakai Katsutoki and Yamane Kikuko.

Amatsukyô's popularity was bolstered by its possession of the physical evidence of a "document" written in "divine age characters" together with "sacred treasures," all of which served to lend a certain degree of credibility to its claims.13 Moreover, not only were the claims unique in form, but their contents were also well adapted to the historical situation. The "Takeuchi Document" was written in the form of an imperial lineage, and composed primarily of stories purporting to record the deeds of historical emperors, but the imperial lineage itself went much further back than the traditional national founding date based on the mythical material of the Nihongi and Kojiki. The story outlined in the Takeuchi Document also extended to global scope, far surpassing the narrow geography of the tales in the Japanese classics, which themselves had been composed as legitimating myths for Japan's early political system.

The myths in the two ancient works had responded well to the political conditions of Japan's ancient emperor system, namely as arguments for the legitimacy of the emperor's control over Japan. When applied to modern Japan's far more internationalized situation, however, they presented numerous ambiguities that made it difficult to respond to issues like Japan's modern oversea expansion, or national crisis. As one example, according to the Nihongi and Kojiki, the myth of creation was limited to the islands of Japan, and the genealogical roots of the nation itself went back no more than about 2,600 years. In terms of time and space, that was nothing compared to the systematization of myths found in the Christian and Jewish Bibles. But in contrast, the "Takeuchi Document" claimed that the Japanese emperor was ruler not merely of the nation and people of Japan, but of all the peoples of the entire world. It is thus not at all strange that this movement showed itself able to attract the attention of certain nationalists and military figures who were sensitive to the issue of a "crisis of legitimation," as well as drawing a good deal of reaction in other ways as well.

Yano came into contact with Amatsukyô and the "Takeuchi Document" in 1930. Yano visited Isohara together with Sakai Katsutoki, founder of the Kokkyô Senmyôdan and promoter of a Japanistic Christianity based on the hypothesis of a common ancestry to the Japanese and Jews. In Isohara, Yano observed the various "sacred treasures" and "ancient documents," and he came away with the strong impression that the items "were complete evidence in the visible world"14 of the claims of the Ofudesaki and the other revelations he had experienced. According to Yano, the previous revelations had given a clear exposition of the operation of the spirit world, but they had stopped short at explaining the principles of the visible world. That lack was now made up for by the "Takeuchi Document," which exposed the true history of these "hidden things."

Not only was Yano influenced conceptually by this encounter, but he also attempted to actively incorporate Amatsukyô or the "Takeuchi Document" as one part of his own religious movement. In 1933 he established the Shinpô Hôsankai (Sacred Treasures Service Association), with headquarters in his Yotsuya (Tokyo) home. While revering Takeuchi Kiyomaro (leader of Amatsukyô) as its honorary director, the organization was in fact peripheral to Amatsukyô, and installed Yano as its actual president. According to the organization's statement of purpose, the association was dedicated to educating and eulogizing regarding the true nature of Japan's "national polity" (kokutai), thus lifting Japan from its current national crisis and contributing toward the achievement of world peace. The organization's statement of purpose also noted the names of twenty-five socially influential personalities as members of its board of directors, in addition to individuals more closely associated with the Amatsukyô and the later-formed Ryûjinkai. The list included such names as Uriu Kitarô (also chairman of the Keikoku Renmei), Takashima Misaku (army colonel), Nakazato Yoshimi (sponsor of the group Shin Nippon), and Ôshima Yutaka of Tôyô University. The organization, however, did not continue long under Yano's leadership; he left shortly afterward due to problems arising with the organization's financing and management. At any rate, Yano's encounter with the Amatsukyô led him to systematize his thought regarding rebuilding and renewal, but he failed to incorporate Amatsukyô's already established organizational base.

Thereafter, Yano worked for the organization of his own unique movement based on the Kimogawa group and a small core of supporters. In 1934 Yano began working for the construction of a "Temple for the Harmonizing of the Deities of Heaven and Earth" (Tenchi Wagô Shinshû-den) in Kimogawa, in this and other ways defining that area as his religious center and holy ground. Based on the concept of that Kimogawa was a "Plain of High Heaven on Earth" (chi no takamagahara[Glossary: takama_no_hara]), Yano planned to hold a collective "spirit pacification" for all deities and spirits, thus paving the way for the "Miroku Theocracy" (Miroku shinseiVII) which he claimed was the causal principle for the divine world.

Then, on November 14 of 1934 in the Tokyo "Sanctuary" (shinden[Glossary: shinden]) located at Shiba, Yano announced the official inauguration of the Shinsei Ryûjinkai (Theocratic Dragon Deity Association)15 as an organization "to hark to the divine command and execute the sacred task of realizing a theocracy."16 No president was named, but its de facto leader was none other than Yano himself. The organization included the names of such personalities as Count and Countess Uesugi Kenshô, Akaike Atsushi (a member of the House of Peers), retired army colonel Takashima Misaku, viscount Tajiri Tetsutarô, and navy commander Kaseda Tetsuhiko. As of May 1935 the association claimed some sixty members, or "karma-associates" (innensha).17 While small in scale, the association was finally given an organizational base.

The activities of the Dragon Association, however, were short lived. In March 1936, Yano and others were charged by authorities on suspicion of lèse-majesté, and the association thus crumbled, not even two years after its inception. The actual nature of the disrespect of which Yano was suspected was described as follows:

In flagrant disregard for the classics of Japanese history, this group teaches the absurd notion that, in addition to the sole consanguineous genealogy of historical emperors and empresses, there is another, so-called spirit geneology, and that some of the historical line of emperors and empresses actually belong to a spirit genealogy of evil deities and spirits of foreign origin, in this way defaming the imperial dignity. They further raise dreadful heresies regarding the divine body (goshintai[Glossary: goshintai]) kept at the Grand Shrine of Ise[Glossary: ise_no_jingu], and also promote rash and blind theories about the three divine treasures, damaging the prestige of the Grand Shrine, while otherwise using the pretext of divine revelations to spread inflammatory and disrespectful teachings, thus showing disrespect to the emperor and the Grand Shrine.18

Around the same time, the so-called "second Ômoto incident" signaled the beginning of a period of strict government repression of religious groups. Further, when one considers the fact that Amatsukyô was brought before the authorities in this same general period, it appears likely that the Dragon Association fell under suspicion by virtue of its association with the other two groups.

Only Yano Yûtarô and Kaseda Tetsuhiko were indicted; Yano fell sick and died in prison while awaiting trial in 1938 (according to one theory, however, he was poisoned). Kaseda was given a suspended sentence of two years imprisonment.

3. Rebuilding and Renewal ConceptsVIII in Shinsei Ryûjinkai19

The beliefs of Shinsei Ryûjinkai are expressed in a substantial body of documentary material, including the writings and speeches of Yano. Those materials represent a comprehensive summary of Yano's research on earlier "automatic writing" such as those by Ômotokyô's Ofudesaki and Hinode shin'yu, together with the revelations received directly through Kuruma Ofusa and Yano's wife Shin, and the concepts expressed in the "Takeuchi Document." But in terms of "revival concepts," it is in the Shinrei seiten (also called the "History of the Great Cosmos" [Daiuchûshi]) that Yano's thought achieves its most comprehensive and systematic expression. In turn, the most detailed information regarding program of practice associated with renewal is to be found in the Ômikami waza goshinchokuki (Record of progress of the deeds of the great deity). As a result, I will rely largely on these two works in my subsequent discussion of the characteristics of renewal and revival thought in the Ryûjinkai.

The original full title of the Daiuchûshi is quite long: "An introduction based on divine revelations and signs of the evolution of the spirit world and visible world, from the origin of the cosmos to the realization of theocratic government, together with a discussion of the history of the Japanese emperors, unified world rule, the rejection of unified rule, the restoration of unified rule, and unified theocratic rule."IX As the title suggests, thes work is generally organized around a history of the Japanese emperors. The story of these "rulers of the three-dimensional visible world" is used as a mechanism for explaining the process which extends from the birth of the world of gods, humans, and order, to the bringing about of chaos, and thence once more to the rebuilding and renewal of the "Theocracy of Miroku" (Miroku shinsei).

According to this work, the entire universe was created as the result of the self-differentiation of the "great primordial spirit of the cosmos" (Uchû no daigenrei, also called the "original great ancestor deity of heaven and earth" [tenchi konpon daisojin]). In this way, the universe was said to have been divided into numerous separate worlds in differing dimensions, including the divine world (shinkai, which was further sub-divided into two parts), the "spirit world" (shinreikai), and the "visible world" (genkai, the physical or material world).

Following differentiation into these differing dimensions, the divine work of creation unfolded simultaneously in the respective worlds. For example, in the visible world, the earth took form and became solid, and the first humans appeared in the islands of Japan. When the divine work of creation was generally accomplished, a period of political "unification" ensued. Each of the spirits and deities of the "divine world" and "spirit world" were given roles and discriminated as "ruler" or "ruled," a discrimination which was then also reflected in the visible human realm. The ruler of the divine realm Amaterasu Hi no Ôkami presented a divine injunction to rule humanityX to Tokoyokuni Omuya Amematsuri Amatsuhitsugi Sumera Mikoto, the founder of Japan's imperial house and the parent of mankind, thus leading to the rule over all countries in the world. The Daiuchûshi thus claims that the Japanese emperors' right to be eternal rulers of world humanity was something determined from the far distant past. And this process resulted in a theocratic government involving an orderly unification of the divine world and all of humanity.

In time, however, the "unified world" became bound by convention, custom, and formalism, resulting in a tendency to restrict the original work of "creation." In order to break out of that deadlock and lead to the advancement and development of the world, the cosmic creator deity Tenchi Konpon Daisojin willed the appearance of a period of "freedom" (jizai). Namely, both spirits and human beings were permitted whatever their hearts desired. But as a result, the worlds of spirits and humans fell prey to selfish desires for sexual satisfaction and power, and the conflict between individuals erupted in wars and rebellions, thus disrupting the theocratic government of the divine age. But the high gods of the divine world decided to let this situation continue as a trial meant to stimulate growth through self-reflection by spirits and humans. As an initial result of this freedom, great chaos was produced within the spirit world.

Carried away by the will to power and sexual excess, Amateruhiko no Ômikami came to possess the beautiful goddess Kinryûhime no Ôkami ("Golden-Dragon-Princess Great-Deity"), and attempted to grasp power over the spirit world in an incident called the "rebellion of heaven" (amatsu ihan). Using the opportunity of this confusion, and also driven by the lust to power, the deity Yamatakehime no Ôkami of the country "Ro" (representing non-Japanese nations) schemed to take under her control the spiritual world of the country "I" (Japan).20 In order that the spirits resolve this confusion among themselves, "spirit-government cabinets" were convened a full eight times within the spirit world.

At the first cabinet meeting, the leading roles were taken by the "Earth General" (Daichi Shôgun) and the "Great Princess-Deity of the Everlasting World" (Tokoyohime no Ôkami). Since these two deities were unable to control the disorder, however, they were made to retire to Kimogawa. Then at the time of the third cabinet, the deity Banko Ôkami (a deity from China) invaded the spirit line of the Japanese imperial house, attempting to extend its control to both the divine world and visible world.

In the next, the fourth, cabinet, the most feared of all foreign spirits, the "Great Deity-Lord of Building Myriad Nations" (Kuni-Yorozu Tsukurinushi no Ôkami; also identified with the Japanese deity Kunitokotachi no Ôkami) was ordered to retire to the northeast (called ushitora) due to complaints about the severe cruelty of its rule.21 But the attempts of the spirit world to rectify itself came to naught, and at the time of the eighth spirit-government cabinet it was said that "the government has come totally into the hands of foreign gods; the indigenous Japanese deities have either retired or else fled and dispersed outside the country, so that the divine government has come under the complete control of gods of foreign origin."22 Since it was said that the eighth spiritual cabinet continued up until May 31 1930, it meant that the history of the spirit world was one of recurring conflict between spirits attempting to fulfill their lusts and will to power, and other spirits who attempted to oppose that first group of deities.

And since the things which occurred in the "spirit world" were automatically reflected in the "visible world," the same kind of disorder carried over to the Japanese emperor's government in the here and now: "In the human world as well, the clear-sighted emperor ruled at the beginning, creating a society with harmony ... but in time that government came to reflect the disruption of the world of spirits ... and the human world was thus likewise thrown in turmoil."23

The Japanese emperors found in the "History of the Great Cosmos" follow those given in the "divine lineage" (Shintô) and "imperial lineage" (kôtô) recorded in the "Takeuchi Document"; already by the time of the second generation, namely Tsukuri Noshiki Yorozu Omihikaru-kami Sumera Mikoto, the disruption of the spirit world came to be reflected in the conduct of the emperor himself. Originally, the "earth general" (Daichi Shôgun) played the role of emperor's "body-spirit" (mitama[Glossary: mitama]),XI but in the case of the second emperor, the role was given to the deity Chijômaru Ôkami. Subsequently, the foreign-lineage deity Banko Ôkami came to take the role of mitama in the time of the fourth emperor Ame no Minakanushi no Kami Mihikari Sumera Mikoto.

It was from around that time that "the mitama of the emperors and their consorts was in increasing confusion,"24 and the line of emperors was also distressed by numerous natural disasters that struck the earth. In particular, numerous great disasters and earthquakes struck Japan in the age of the emperor preceding Jimmu, resulting in the virtual extermination of the society and culture existing to that point. In order to rebuild Japan, Emperor Jimmu at one point discarded the principle of "unified world rule" (sekai tôri), and introduced culture once again from foreign lands in a process of reverse importation. Thereafter, unified imperial rule extended no farther than the Japanese islands alone.25

According to the Daiuchûshi, both humans and divine spirits were carried away by the "will to power" and "sexual lust" during this long period of "freedom," leading to recurrent conflicts and disorder. But it goes on to say that the period of trial has finally come to an end, and humans and spirits have now entered into a period of "limitation" (gentei) in which they will come to be aware of and submit to the "Heavenly Principles" (amatsu tensoku). In this new age, the ancient "theocratic government" will be restored to the cosmos in the form of a perfect ideal rooted in the self-awareness of spirits and humans. But that ideal will not come about without further trial. Until that time, it will still be necessary to undertake the divine work of "rebuilding and renewal" (tatekae tatenaoshi) throughout the spirit world, the visible world, and the unseen world (or realm of the dead: yûkai).

The order for this project of "rebuilding and renewal" was delivered from the cosmic creator god, through the "three deities of heaven" (Ama no go santai no Ôkami) to the national founding deity Kuni-Yorozu Tsukurinushi no Ôkami (Kunitokotachi no Ôkami), who had been in retirement in the northeast since the time of the fourth spirit-world cabinet.

Upon receiving the order, this national ancestral deity immediately began the work of preparing for the necesary reconstruction.26 The ancestral deity Kunitokotachi no Ôkami first planned to take the opportunity of the restoration of imperial rule to Emperor Meiji, by entering and possessing the emperor in 1874 so as to promote the work of "rebuilding and renewing the visible world." But at that time the imperial house and the Japanese government were still swayed by foreign spirits and deities, as evidenced by the issuing of the Meiji Constitution and the formation of a national Diet, with the result that the ancestral deity was forced to postpone the rebuilding of the visible world.

Then, the deity decided to work to "rebuild and renew the mitama of holy persons" (shinjin no mitama no tatekae tatenaoshi),27 signaling its intent to withdraw from Emperor Meiji and possess instead Deguchi Nao, founder of Ômoto.28 Thereafter, Kunitokotachi no Ôkami (speaking primarily through the deity "Hinode no Ôkami",XII) continues to call on all spirits within and without Japan to be converted and participate in the divine work of "rebuilding" the spirit world. During this period, problems will continue to occur due to the various spirits of foreign origin and their attendant evils, but in the end, "harmony between heaven and earth" will be realized in the spirit world (meaning that each spirit will return to its original, appropriate status and position), and the "rebuilding" of the spirit world will finally be accomplished.29

Once rectification of the spirit world has been completed, rebuilding of the visible world will proceed. But there is no guarantee that these steps will proceed smoothly. On the contrary, various spirits of the foreign lineage of the "Red Hair and Nine-Tails" (akagekyûbi) will remain unconverted during this rebuilding, and those deities will attempt a final challenge to the divine work. As a result, Japan will be visited by a succession of natural disasters and wars, and extreme chaos may afflict the visible world.

Within this condition of extremity, the emperor himself will finally come to a realization of his original mandate, and a kind of spiritual awakening will occur within the people both in and out of Japan. And at last, the emperor will effect a restoration of divine government. Once this "rebuilding" has progressed to a certain extent, Kunitokotachi no Ôkami will issue a divine proclamation for the "renewal of the visible world." In the process of renewal, people called "god-men" (shinjin) who possess "body-spirits," will be called upon to serve, and entrusted with the responsibility for advising the emperor and overseeing the process of the renewal of foreign countries. Little is concretely specified regarding social and economic organization following renewal,30 although the system of unified imperial world rule is described as a kind of global federation, within which local government is recognized for seven world regions, all under the overall rule of the emperor Tokoyokuni Omuya Amematsuri Amatsuhitsugi Sumera Mikoto.31

Rebuilding and renewal of the spirit world will proceed upon completion of the renewal of the visible world as noted above. Each spirit will be rewarded with new status and title in accordance with the origins of its original "body-spirit," and depending on the merits it has accumulated in the process of rebuilding and renewal. In this way, the process of theocratic restoration will be accomplished in both the visible and spirit worlds, at which time the deity Miroku no Ôkami32 will appear to usher in the ideal "World of Miroku [Maitreya]" throughout the entire cosmos.33

This is a broad outline of Shinsei Ryûjinkai's "rebuilding and renewal" concepts as depicted in the "History of the Great Cosmos." Overall, the work takes the form of an imperial genealogy, and it is noteworthy that the names and histories of the emperors appearing largely coincide with those found in the Amatsukyô's "Takeuchi Document." As a result, it is clear that the "History of the Great Cosmos" was heavily influenced by Yano's encounter with the Amatsukyô group and its concepts. At the same time, the "Takeuchi Document" was considered an "old document" transmitted from ancient times. As such, it was alledged to have been composed entirely of "historical events" believed to have occurred previous to its writing, and moreover, those events were limited to things occurring in the visible world.

In contrast, the "History of the Great Cosmos" is not limited merely to "facts" in the historical past of the visible world. First, its ruling concept is that the march of history in the visible world has been constantly influenced by events in the divine and spirit worlds. Based on that concept, a spiritualistic interpretation is used to render a three-dimensional portrayal of history; the events in the visible world are explained by movements within the spiritual world, or conversely, events in the spiritual world are used to predict subsequent developments in the visible world.

Further, the work's interpretation extends from the primordial past up to and including the very period in which it was written (ca. 1930). That early modern period is portrayed as the culmination of confusion and crisis produced by accumulated adverse influences of evil foreign spirits on Japan's imperial rule. In response, focus is placed on prophecies of rebuilding and renewal which look forward to an escape from the crisis and the realization of an ideal world through human efforts working upon the spiritual and visible worlds, and through the mobilization of supernatural power.

On the other hand, the vision of revival in this work views the process as a drama or grand epic myth on the stage of the spiritual world, detailing on a grand scale the complicated intertwinings of various deities and spirits. In that sense, it is reminiscent of Deguchi Onisaburô's "Tale of the Spirit World" (Reikai monogatari ), which likewise interprets events of the visible world as reflections of similar events in the invisible spirit realm. There, however, the correspondence is always portrayed in the form of a "tale" of the "spirit world," with the result that the manner in which spiritual events are reflected in the here-and-now is kept at an ambiguous, skillfully blurred level.

In contrast, the "History of the Great Cosmos" interprets the historical events of the "Takeuchi Document" as the correct history of the real world, with the result that the relationship between spirit and visible worlds is depicted as a much more literal and explicit correspondence. This means in turn that the vision of renewal is applied much more literally to the history of the visible world. And that literalness means that the nature of the work as an example of "lèse majesté" is clearer than that in the case of Ômotokyô. In a sense, the central characteristic of the "History of the Grand Cosmos" is the skillful way it combines the rebuilding and renewal concepts found in the various prophecies and revelations from Ômoto and elsewhere, with the grand cosmic scale or world-emperor concept found in the "Takeuchi Document," combining those two elements in its own unique eschatological view of history.

Next, I want to give a general overview of the actual program of practice and the behavioral characteristics of the group that gave it its unique orientation toward the realization of rebuilding and renewal. In general, millenarian religious movements look for the realization of world reconstruction not through human agency, but through the appearance of a transcendental power. In that sense, millenarianism can be said to be of a passive nature, a form of thought which relies ultimately on the power of the other. At the same time, such millenarian movements also frequently designate the kind of conditions believed necessary for realizing the divine will, or the kind of human attitudes and activities which must be undertaken in order to prepare for or assist the divine work. In that sense, they frequently involve elements that assume the active "intervention" of human beings as well.34 We must then ask, what kinds of activities were envisioned by the Shinsei Ryûjinkai as forming this kind of necessary human preparation for renewal?

As we noted earlier, Shinsei Ryûjinkai's overall view of the divine work of rebuilding and renewal involved a process beginning with the "rebuilding" (tatekae) of the spiritual world, followed by the "rebuilding" of the visible world. This was then followed by the "renewal" (tatenaoshi) of the visible world and the "renewal" of the spirit world, finally culminating in the realization of the theocractic "World of Maitreya (Miroku)" throughout the entire universe. And the group taught that the first stage - "rebuilding of the spirit world" - had already been realized on June 1 1930 in the form of the "harmonization of heaven and earth" (tenchi wagô). Furthermore, the entire process was said to be unfolding based on the cosmic creator deity's own "divine plan."

But within this process, human participation was to considered indispensable for the realization of the rebuilding and renewal of the visible world, which was in a particularly critical condition. This was so because, "the great divine work now at hand cannot be accomplished by the deities and spirits alone, all the more reason that it cannot be realized by the work of humans alone. The divine work will be accomplished only when the divine performs its own divine function, entering and possessing the lineages of fleshly temples [human bodies] to make them function as well."35

And the persons thought to have especially important roles in that context were the Japanese emperor and his "karma-associates" [innensha; see note 17 above], people considered bound together in faith by a deep spiritual "karma" (innen) and who were thought would play leading roles in the rebuilding and renewal; in specific, the term referred to members of the Shinsei Ryûjinkai. In turn, it was believed that a spiritual awakening would occur among the ordinary citizens of Japan and other nations as well, as part of the process of renewal, but on the whole, that awakening was thought to be merely a passive accompaniment to the advancing process of revival. Yano claimed that

It is we and we alone who know the movement of the times, and who are capable of moving - and who must move - in the direction of a fulfillment of the divine work. In contrast, while the lesser actors [ordinary human beings outside the movement] will generally move in the direction of the realization of the divine government, there will also be large numbers who appear with no vision or self-realization, and who internally ... move in a direction opposed [to the divine work]."36

The Japanese emperor was considered to be the key human figure involved in the process of renewal. Not only was the emperor to be the ruler of the visible world following its renewal, but he was also expected to play a decisive role in the process of renewal itself. Accordingly, it was considered "fundamental, and the crux of the entire issue" that the current emperor come to a recognition of his position and mission as "Tokoyokuni Omuya Amematsuri Amatsuhitsugi," (an appellation which indicated his central ruling position and authority over all nations), and as the chief figure in the process of "unified world rule."37

And in order to realize this state of affairs, it was considered important to accomplish the following six things:38 (1) the emperor must come under the direct protection of Amaterasu Ômikami[Glossary: amaterasu_omikami] and other gods and spirits; (2) the Earth General (Daichi Shôgun) must be allowed to play the role of imperial "body-spirit" once again; (3) since there are many in the palace and around the emperor who would introduce evil spirits into the emperor's "body-spirit," those evil "body-spirits" and fleshly bodies must be replaced; (4) in the process of rebuilding and renewal, a variety of troubles will occur, and those crises will spur the emperor to self-awareness; (5) person-to-person communication must be used to inform the emperor of his mission and the impending rebuilding and renewal; (6) Amaterasu Ômikami and "karma-associates" must reveal and teach the preceding things to the emperor directly.

Of the six elements noted above, (1), (2), part of (3), (4), and part of (6) were not expected to require direct human intervention, since they would occur on their own within the natural flow of events, or else they would be realized as a result of human ritual actions directed toward the deities and spirit world. In any case, they would not require the members of the group to exert influence on other persons outside the organization. As a result of divine revelations, the former kind of events were thought to be proceeding smoothly toward realization, while a variety of esoteric rituals were being performed by the group with regard to the latter elements.

In sum, the only elements which were considered to require the direct involvement of Shinsei Ryûjinkai members in non-group or general social activity were (5) and parts of (3) and (6). Of these, the process of renewal within the palace noted in (3) was considered to be almost entirely an issue on the spiritual dimension, with the result that the other aspect of working directly on the emperor became a central concern of the group's activities. And plans were made to achieve the goals noted in (5) by using one of the group's supporters, a female palace attendant, to present a copy of the "History of the Great Cosmos" to the emperor.

The remaining issue was (6), namely use of "karma-associates" to transmit the divine will directly to the emperor, and it seems likely that Yano Yûtarô envisioned that he himself would in some way perform this function. This can be assumed because it was said that, "Mrs. Yano is the organ through which the rebuilding and renewal of the visible world will be announced to the human world, and Sanjô [a reference to Yano Yûtarô], is the organ of divine judgement"39 [who] "has the role of transmitting to the great lord [ôkimi; viz, the emperor] word of the dissolution occurring in the divine world and the mission of the emperor in this final age."40 Further, Yano believed that on the dawn of the emperor's self-awakening he would serve as the highest counselor and head of the emperor's general staff, who in turn would be commander-in-chief over the continuing process of rebuilding and renewal. But it was recognized that this element in the plan would by no means be easy to achieve.

In any case, with its core of elite "karma-associates" the Ryûjinkai movement aimed at penetrating to the core of the imperial palace, with the result that it had strong overtones of a secret society engaged in esoteric rituals and plotting.

The completion of the group's "fleshly temple" [nikumiyâ] remained the weak link in the group's movement, and the group always lacked adequate numbers of supporters, but by early 1935 it appeared subjectively that "preparations for initiating the rebuilding of the visible world have been nearly completed."41 In any event, the movement shortly thereafter drew intervention from government authorities, who had been monitoring the activities of the group.

4. The Place of Shinsei Ryûjinkai among New World-Revival Movements of the Taishô and Early Shôwa Periods

Viewed from present perspective, the teachings and activities of the Shinsei Ryûjinkai may appear to have ended on the most minor of notes. Further, in the sense of the revivalist thought involved, the group did not evidence the kind of radical challenging of imperial authority seen in groups like Tenri Honmichi or Tenshô Kôtai Jingû-kyô. And in the area of activity as well, the Ryûjinkai lacked the sharp social impact reflected in Ômotokyô's motto of a "Taishô Restoration," or the mass mobilization and high tide of social movement seen in the Shôwa Shinseikai. But even so, it is too convenient to dispose of the Shinsei Ryûjinkai as merely an isolated, deviant phenomenon.

The concepts of the Ryûjinkai can be summarized as a kind of eschatological history with contents similar to those found in the Kojiki and the Nihongi, one which looked to the current Japanese emperor as the savior of renewal for both Japan and the world. Accordingly, one might say that the group borrowed or synthesized the framework and rhetoric of the official ideology of imperial mythos as a means of expressing its longing for a reform in the way the emperor system was actually implemented. In other words, it displayed a convoluted structure aimed at overthrowing the actual emperor system through a restoration of an original or ideal emperor system. As a result, the group's thought is capable of multiple conflicting interpretations, appearing either as an aggressive expansionism which attempted to make the emperor system more universal and more global, or on the contrary, as a form of revolutionary thought attempting to reform the emperor system from within.

It must be remembered, however, that the quasi-imperial mythos characteristic of "rebuilding and renewal" thought was not unique to the Ryûjinkai alone, but a common feature of many similar groups during that period. Of course, the precise form which the ideal emperor system was thought to take, and thus the kind and degree of tension experienced between that ideal and the actual emperor system, were by no means the same in all groups. But even those differences all developed within the framework or the rhetoric of myths centering on the imperial institution. In that sense, it is possible to interpret these various groups as various "flowers" of reformist thought all springing from one and the same root.

Admitted, at first glance it would almost appear that there was an essential difference in attitudes toward the emperor which made the Shinsei Ryûjinkai the complete antithesis of a group like Tenri Honmichi. Tenri Honmichi doctrine in this period involved a straightforward repudiation of imperial authority, while Ryûjinkai, on the other hand, entrusted their expectations of renewal to the charismatic power of the actual reigning monarch.42

But a closer investigation of the details of the concepts held by the two groups makes it more difficult to assume such a clear-cut dichotomy. Certainly, Tenri Honmichi denied the authority of the emperor system, but the basis for that denial was the assessment that the currently reigning emperor was an "empty person" (kûkyo no hito) and did not possess the "imperial virtue" (tentoku) required of a legitimate emperor. As a result, the group taught that a correct understanding of Tenrikyô's doctrines and the Japanese classical myths would show that Honmichi's leader Ônishi Aijirô[Glossary: onishi_aijiro] (1881-1958) was the real "emperor," and genuine rebuilding and renewal would be achieved only when Ônishi achieved that the status of emperor, thus allowing the realization of united world rule centering on the genuine "emperor." Viewed in this way, one can say that while the revivalist thought of Tenri Honmichi in this period did deny the religious authority of the reigning emperor, it did not deny emperor-centrism per se; on the contrary, its conceptual framework and rhetoric was characterized by a strong coloring of quasi-Tennôism. Certainly, Tenri Honmichi was one of very few religious movements in the prewar period which straightforwardly repudiated the authority of the current emperor, but it did so with a curious ambiguity with respect to the imperial institution.43

Similarly, while the Ryûjinkai viewed the reigning emperor as central to the activity of revival, that positive evaluation does not mean that the group's concepts were incapable of relativizing or denying the emperor's authority. This because the emperor's divine authority was not ultimately sought in a single blood lineage continuing through all ages, but rather in the lineage of a mitama or "body-spirit" (the spiritual essence) befitting that authority. And those two elements did not necessarily coincide, since a number of emperors were not considered appropriate for the imperial "body-spirit." As a result, a distinction was made between the (real) emperor who existed in the flesh and the (ideal) emperor as a spiritual essence, and a position was thus maintained for relativizing or criticizing the former from the perspective of the latter.44 Even the current emperor was not affirmed immediately and unconditionally; rather, he was made the center of renewal and restoration of divine government to the extent that his "body-spirit" could be restored to one befitting a genuine emperor.

The views of the emperor held by Ryûjinkai and Tenri Honmichi were in essence not so different, in the sense that both they sought a principle whereby the emperor's authority could be legitimated on the basis of the metaphysical properties of "divine virtue" or "spirit," properties which lay outside the principle of consanguineous genealogy alone.

But in the case of Ryûjinkai, that metaphysical essence was always something which would be restored to the physical body of the reigning emperor, with the result that no absolute distinction was made between blood lineage and spiritual lineage. And this point was the crux of conceptual differences with Tenri Honmichi, which always looked for the imperial "essence" in some person other than the actually reigning emperor. In sum, while the two groups appear at first glance to be completely opposed, a closer investigation shows that difference to be paper thin, indeed.

What, then, were the factors which produced this "paper-thin" difference? With regard to the veneration of the Meiji and Shôwa emperors, some of the difference can no doubt be explained by the personal history of Yano Yûtarô, who was raised from an early period in an ambience thoroughly permeated with imperial veneration and patriotism, his father serving as engineer on Emperor Meiji's train, and himself following the path of career military officer.

In contrast, Tenri Honmichi's parent sect Tenrikyô had already entertained elements suggestive of emperor criticism, and Tenri Honmichi itself began as a reaction to the practice of hereditary (consanguineous) succession to religious leadership as practiced in Tenrikyô, since Tenri Honmichi instead searched for religious authority in a spiritual lineage alone. In other words, Tenri Honmichi was strongly oriented toward the principle of personal charisma in contrast to consanguineous succession, and this fact formed a background to its negative appraisal of the reigning emperor.

But few of the rebuilding and renewal movements of new religions in the pre-war period demonstrated Tenri Honmichi's kind of critical attitude to the emperor, and most of those were derived from Honmichi itself. Most movements, on the contrary, were of the Ryûjinkai type, placing great hopes in the current emperor. In that sense, it might be said that it is the Honmichi sects which require explaining, while the Ryûjinkai type should be considered the norm.45

It might also be noted that the same kind of ambiguity found in Ryûjinkai's views of the emperor can also be found in the group's concepts of renewal and the kind of world order which should be result from that renewal. Which is to say that one can find both the idea that Japan and the Japanese way of life itself will be reformed, and also the idea that the entire world will be reformed to the pattern set by the Japanese emperor or by the nation of Japan.

On the one hand, these ideas hold the potential for an open, self-critical awareness that Japan or the Japanese people have slipped away from their original, genuine state due to the influence of evil "body-spirits." And that kind of awareness was made possible through the introduction of the metaphysical concept of a "body-spirit" in contrast to the concept of a physical "heredity."

Unfortunately, however, the concept of "body-spirit" was itself rigidly centered on the race and nation of Japan, making it incapable of relativization. Since evil "body-spirits" were believed to originate in spirits of "foreign lineage," there was a sense in which the concept of "body-spirits" itself was inextricably mingled with the principle of heredity. In order to achieve a fundamental renewal of Japan it would thus be necessary to convert or subdue the "spirits of foreign lineage," meaning that the concept was closely linked to the legitimation of Japan's aggressive rebuilding and renewal of foreign countries as well.

Further, the group's reliance on the "Takeuchi Document" meant that its vision of world order strongly reflected the "Takeuchi Document's" views of Japanese racial supremacy, including the concept that Japan and the Japanese race were the progenitors of the nations of the world and humankind as a whole, in short, that the Japanese people were at the center of the world. And such elements naturally formed another factor inhibiting any objective evaluation of the Japanese people.46

Even the ambiguity noted earlier was itself not something unique to the Ryûjinkai, but on the whole quite common among most new religions of the period. Even Tenri Honmichi, which appeared almost radical in its criticism of the emperor, showed a strong element of Japanese ethnocentrism in its insistence that foreign powers were "branch countries" (edasaki no kuni), which had turned in revolt or treason against the "root country" (ne no kuni[Glossary: ne_no_kuni]) or "foundation country" (moto no kuni) of Japan.

By and large, the renewal concepts produced by new religions in this period were composed so as to resemble the Japanese classical myths, and they thus naturally tended to emphasize the central role of Japan. As a result, they also reflected to a large degree the strong lineage values of the myths in the Kojiki and Nihongi, which determined human hierarchy (superior/inferior, master/servant) on the basis of the distance from direct imperial lineage. In accordance with the order in which the various peoples of the world were produced from the lineage of the gods (emperors), the Japanese people (nation) was naturally viewed as playing the central, leading role, since it was the "country of direct descent" or the "eldest-son country" or the "root country."

The insistance on self-renewal based on the principle of the letimation by "body-spirits" was not altogether lacking, but in most cases it was not discriminated clearly from the principle of "heredity." And that tendency became even more pronounced as the tension between Japan and other countries increased.47

On the other hand, the behavior of Yano and the Ryûjinkai demonstrates a variety of weaknesses, including lack of independence as a religious movement, excessive reliance on established authorities, and the lack of mass involvement in the movement.

First, Yano's organizational techniques were almost entirely parasitic, relying on already existing organizations such as the marginal groups which existed at the peripheries of Ômotokyô and Amatsukyô, or else looking to powerful individual "patrons" for donations and support. Conversely, he made almost no attempt at all to mobilize the masses directly, with the result that his organization lacked a firm foundation rooted in broad popular support. Not surprisingly, Yano's arrest as the leader of Ryûjinkai signaled the demise of the group as a whole, contrary to cases of oppression with groups like Ômoto or Tenri Honmichi.

Also, with the exception of ritual behavior, the group's concrete program of action for renewal was almost entirely limited to attempts to influence the emperor or other palace figures, as though the group were merely trying to embellish existing sources of authority. And when one considers that those same established authorities were to be used to perform the work of renewal, it is difficult to escape the impression of an organization overly concerned with immediate political expedients rather than a deeper concern for the revolutionary transformation of fundamental world order. And although the group did attempt to contact the emperor, the success of the group's program would have been possible only if the emperor had accepted their plan, a fact which makes it even more apparent just how dependent the group was on outside powers or existing authorities.

This pattern of behavior seems to closely reflect the social history of Yano himself, who went from a rather elite course as a professional military officer to the marginal status of religious and social activist, flirting with Ômotokyô and continental life as an adventurer. His experience as an elite near to the corridors of power, together with the strategic patterns of thought he learned as a professional military officer may well have made him feel that a small, elite "palace revolution" would be more effective than a mass movement. It is also possible that his parasitical form of organization was influenced by his experiences in Ômotokyô and on the Chinese continent, where he found many adverturers and activists working as lone-wolf "patriots" with the support of donations and influence from religious, military, and powerful private figures. (Ômotokyô attracted numerous solitary activists looking for financial support. As evidenced by his journey to Manchuria, Deguchi Onisaburô was himself characterized to a certain degree by that kind of personality.)

But most of the movements of the prewar period considered the reigning emperor to have decisive significance in the overall process of rebuilding and renewal, since it was thought that he would be the central actor in the revival process itself, or else the leader of the theocracy following revival. In that sense, Ryûjinkai was not alone in emphasizing that the concepts of rebuilding and renewal must be accepted by the emperor in some form. On the contrary, a number of other groups held the same common hope for the emperor, even though not always expressed in the form of direct action to influence the court. And in fact, attempts to influence the emperor were indeed planned by some other groups, as evidenced by the case of Matsushita Soshindô.48

Another movement which aimed at renewal through the form of a "palace revolt" was the Jiu (Jikôson) movement of the post-war period. In the case of the Jiu movement, Jikôson considered herself rather than the emperor as bearer of renewal, and she attempted to achieve the aims of her movement by calling upon central political figures like the emperor, Douglas MacArthur, and Yoshida Shigeru to establish a "Jiu Cabinet." Similarly, the Shintô Tenkôkyo was a ritualistic movement in which a spiritually purified elite performed esoteric rituals as a means of influencing the spirit world toward the goal of rebuilding and renewal.49

As a result, the Ryûjinkai pattern of activities admittedly made it ineffective as a religious movement, but it was no means unique or isolated in the context of other movements of the period, and the range of its activities also largely coincided with that of other movements. These facts should remind us that the renewal movements in that period did not always involve calls for mass conversion or mass action as seen in Ômotokyô; there was also a smaller class of movements which adopted an esoteric form centered on small coteries of elites, and which were targeted on the very centers of authority.

Shinsei Ryûjinkai's thought and behavior regarding world renewal may not have represented a remarkable breakthrough in the sense of a criticism or reform of existing institutional ideology or the establishment itself. On the contrary, it can be pointed out that the structure of its renewal concepts failed to pay sufficient attention to the tension between ideals and reality, and that it was also strongly influenced by the existing ideology and established insititutions. But paradoxically, it is for that very reason that the case of Ryûjinkai more clearly demonstrates the diverse and subtle internal vicissitudes experienced by the vision of renewal in pre-war Japan.


1. In addition to specific studies, a large number of general introductions are available, including Vittorio Lanternari's The Religions of the Oppressed (Knopf, 1963); W. Muhlmann (Hrg), Chiliasmus und Nativismus (D. Reimer, 1961); and Bryan Wilson, Magic and the Millenium (Heinemann, 1973). In the West, interest in these studies dates back to the 1950s, Japanese scholars expressed rising interest only from around the 1970s. For general, comparative works in Japanese on the subject of millenarianism, see Suzuki Nakamasa, ed., Sennen ôkokuteki minshû undô no kenkyû [Research on millenarian folk movements] (Tôdai Shuppankai, 1982); and Nakamaki Hirochika, ed., Kamigami no sôkoku [conflict of the deities] (Shinsensha, 1982).

2. For an overview of the rebuilding and renewal thought within Japan's new religions, see my "Shûmatsu yogen shûkyô no keifu" [The origins of eschatological religions in Japan], (Chûô Gakujutsu Kenkyûsho [Chuo Academic Research Institute]), ed., Shinri to sôzô [Truth and creation], 94-106.

3. The expanse is even greater when movements following the lines of Sôka Gakkai and Nichirenism are counted, together with Christian-related movements like the Holiness and Watchtower (Jehovah's Witnesses) groups.

4. I have consulted the following materials for information regarding the Shinsei Ryûjinkai: Yano Yûtarô (posthumous manuscript), Shinrei seiten [Scripture of the spirits], 1964 (this work is a reprint of Yano's "History of the Great Cosmos" or Daiuchûshi [see note IX for the full title]; Sanjô Hikoyuki (Yano Yûtarô) and Kaseda Tetsuhiko, eds., Shôwa yonnenmatsu yori Shôwa jûnen hajime ni itaru ômikami waza goshinchokuki, jôge [Record of the great deity's work from the end of 1929 to the beginning of 1935, volumes one and two], (mimeographed copy); Sanjô Hikoyuki and Takashima Nobue, eds., Kojiki no kagayaki [The gleam of the Kojiki], vols. 1 to 5, 1973, (mimeographed copy); "Shinsei Ryûjinkai jiken, kôso jijitsu, yoshin shûketsu kettei, daiisshin hanketsu" [The Shinsei Ryûjinkai incident, facts of indictment, decision at closing of pretrial hearing and initial verdict], Shisô shiryô panfuretto tokushû dainijûnigô [Thought materials pamphlets, special No. 22], 1941 (reprinted in Shôwa shisô tôseishi shiryô [Materials relating to the history of thought-control in the Shôwa period], Vol. 9 (Seikatsusha, 1980); Okino Iwasaburô, Meishin no hanashi [About superstition], New Edition, (1969), 72-81. In addition, articles relating to the Ryûjinkai incident can be found in Naimushô Keihokyoku, Tokkô gaiji geppô [Monthly gazette on external affairs of the special higher police], April 1936, December 1937; Tokkô geppô [Monthly gazette of the special higher police], February 1941; Naimushô Keihokyoku, Shakai undô no jôkyô [Conditions regarding social movements], 1936-1941. Yano's own works and records of lectures include a number which I have not seen, including "Kami no sekai no hanashi" [Talks about the world of gods], nos. 1-8; "Goshinjishû" [A collection of revelations]; "Uchû no shintai" [The true state of the universe]; "Kojiki no engen" [The origin of the Kojiki]; "Kojiki ryakuge" [A brief interpretation of the Kojiki]; and "Kimogawa yuraiki" [The origins of Kimogawa].

5. Facts relating to the life of Yano Yûtarô have been taken primarily from the "Soegaki" [Postscript] accompanying the Shinrei seiten, materials relating to the Ryûjinkai incident, and data from Meishin no hanashi.

6. Op cit., Shinrei seiten.

7. According to the "Soegaki" accompanying Shinrei seiten, Yano contributed to improvements in armament fuses, a new kind of mast construction, a method of strengthening the metal used in shipboard gun barrels, and the invention of a method for electrically operating shipboard gun barrels.

8. Ibid, 7.

9. Murakami Shigeyoshi, Deguchi Onisaburô (Sanseidô, 1978), 155.

10. Ibid, 159.

11. The most convenient source of information regarding the thought, activities, and incidents surrounding Amatsukyô, the "Takeuchi Document," and references to other relevant documentation is Gendai Reigaku Kenkyûkai, ed., Jindai hishi shiryô shûsei [Collection of materials on the secret history of the age of the gods], (three volumes) (Hachiman Shoten, 1984). The same publisher has also reprinted a number of other works relating to Amatsukyô and the "Takeuchi Document."

12. Materials relating to the Amatsukyô incident can be found collected in Jindai hishi shiryô shûsei, volume 3.

13. The originals of this document and the "sacred treasures" were confiscated by government authorities and later lost in air raids during World War II. As a result, it is impossible to confirm or deny the authenticity of any of these items. For documentary criticism of the "Takeuchi Document" and its alledged copies, see Jindai hishi shiryô shûsei, appendix "Kaidai" [Explanatory notes] by Ôuchi Yoshisato, and Kanô Ryôkichi,, "Amatsukyô komonjo no hihan" [Criticism of the Amatsukyô document], Shisô (June, 1936), 983-1027.

14. Ômikami waza goshinchokuki, leaf 204.

15. The Tokyo sanctuary (shinden) and headquarters were later moved to Shimizu-chô, Meguro-ku, Tokyo.

16. Ibid, vol. 2, leaf 469.

17. Ômikami waza goshinchokuki, vol. 1, leaf 219-221.

18. Tokkô gaiji geppô, December 1937 (quoted in Akaishi Hirotaka and Matsuura Sôzô, eds., Shôwa Tokkô dan'atsu-shi [History of oppression by the special higher police in the Shôwa period], volume 3 (Taihei Shuppansha, 1975), 102.

19. The Shinsei Ryûjinkai received its first start as an organization in 1934, but I here treat the group concept more broadly, in the sense of the thought and behavior of all those groups founded by Yano Yûtarô, even before 1934.

20. This information borrowed from Hinode Shin'yu.

21. This incident corresponds to the jist of Ômotokyô's "Kokuso taiin" [The departure of the national ancestor"].

22. Shinrei seiten, 66.

23. Ibid, 23.

24. Ibid, 45.

25. Accordingly, the founding of Japan by Jimmu Tennô as recorded in the myths of the Kojiki and Nihongi was, in fact, merely a reestablishment - on a reduced scale - of imperial rule. It should be noted, moreover, that the "body-spirit" of Jimmu Tennô was claimed to have come from a foreign lineage.

26. The "Heavenly General" (Ten no Shôgun) which possessed Tenrikyô's Nakayama Miki[Glossary: nakayama_miki], and the "Gold [or metal] deity" (Konjin) which possessed the founder of Konkôkyô were all said to indicate the appearance of the nation-founding deity and his minions.

27. Shinrei seiten, 229.

28. According to the message of the "Ofudesaki" by Ômotokyô's Deguchi Nao.

29. The spirit world's "harmonization of heaven and earth" was said to have been completed on June 1 1930.

30. Social organization following rebuilding and renewal was modeled after the divine pattern revealed in the "Takeuchi Document," modified to take account of modern conditions. Suggestions were also made regarding a new form of economic organization (Shinrei seiten, 258-259). Elsewhere, it is said that enlightened, harmonious marital love would be the basis for a perfectly ordered society (ibid, 261). Overall, one feels little of the nativistic, mass-movement characteristics strongly coloring Ômotokyô's utopian vision.

31. The borders of the regions were said to be those which the "Takeuchi Document" set in accordance with an ancient map. The work states, for example, that the current attempt to annex the "branch country" of Korea was a mistake, since it was not originally Japanese territory.

32. The appearance of "Miroku Ôkami" was said to indicate the time when all the deities under the cosmic ruler deity Amaterasu Ômikami would appear together in their original form. These deities included six each from the two dimensions of the divine world and the one dimension of the spirit world, for a total of three dimensions and eighteen deities.

33. It was apparently not thought, however, that this ideal world would continue forever. This because the universe was viewed as being in constant change, subject to the recurrent process of "creation," "unification," "freedom," and "decline" (Shinrei seiten, 5).

34. See my "Undôtai to shite no sennen ôkokushugi" [Millenarianism in mass movements], Gendai shakaigaku [Modern sociology], 21 (1986), 97-104.

35. Ômikami waza goshinchokuki, vol. 1, leaf 191.

36. Ibid, vol. 2, leaf 522.

37. Ibid, vol. 1, leaf 167.

38. Ibid, vol. 1, leaf 170-176.

39. Ibid, vol. 1, leaf 27-28.

40. Ibid, vol. 1, leaf 21. [The expression used here for "final age" is the Buddhist eschatological term mappô or "age of the final dharma" - Trans.]

41. Ibid, vol. 2, leaf 539.

42. Murakami Shigeyoshi emphasizes this difference in his research. See his Honmichi fukei jiken[Glossary: honmichi_fukei_jiken] [The Honmichi lèse majesté incident] (Kôdansha, 1974). While not mentioning Ryûjinkai, he makes a strong distinction between the various religious groups which were subject of state religious control. Some of those groups, like Ômotokyô and Hitonomichi[Glossary: hitonomichi_kyodan], always assumed the reigning emperor possessed religious authority, even though their interpretation of the emperor (system) was considered sacrilegious. On the other hand, other groups like Tenri Honmichi flatly denied the authority of the emperor.

43. Tenri Honmichi denied the sacred authority of the reigning emperor, and was subjected to strict suppression for advocating a revolution in the national polity. Following the end of the war, however, it was, on the contrary, accused of being a group with supra-nationalistic concepts centered on Japan and the emperor. For information on the post-war suppression of Honmichi see Umehara Masaki, Tenkeisha no shûkyô Honmichi [The revealed religion of Honmichi] (Nanto Shobô, 1986) 261-268.

44. This kind of discrimination of the emperor's "blood lineage" and "spirit lineage" and the "lèse majesté" which resulted from it were central rationale for the state suppression of Ryûjinkai. With regard to this point, see the quotation of the official lèse majesté charges on paragraph 26.

45. As illustrated by Tenshô Kôtai Jingûkyô and Jiu, however, groups which arose and developed from around the close of World War II often show a clear denial or "relativization" of the religious authority of the reigning emperor. But by that time, great changes had occurred in the conceptual background to those movements. Some of those changes included Japan's defeat in its "holy war" with the West, and the emperor's own denial of divinity.

Also, of the movements which continued from the pre-war period, Ômoto was subjected to strict government control for denying the institution of rule by an actual emperor, since it claimed instead that the group's leader (Deguchi Onisaburô) was to lead the way to renewal. Certainly, Ômoto's concept of renewal had an ambiguity which allowed it to be interpreted as either a denial or a countenancing of the emperor (system) (and some of its pronouncements in that area appear to have been expressed with deliberate ambiguity). But whatever the real intentions of the leadership, most believers and sympathizers placed their expectations in a renewal which would be under the authority of the reigning emperor. With regard to the various ways in which believers accepted renewal concepts in general, see Ikeda Akira, "Ômoto shiryô shûsei kaisetsu" [A commentary on Ômoto documents], in Ikeda Akira, ed., Ômoto shiryô shûsei [A collection of documents on Ômoto], 3 (San'ichi Shobô, 1985), 807-810.

46. As noted earlier, however, this world order would not involve the direct rule and control of foreign countries by the emperor and Japan. It was always conceived as a kind of global federation in which the nations of the world would look up to Japan as the center of the world, but continue to maintain their own individual governments in accordance with the ancient world map described in the "Takeuchi Document." In that sense, Yano's reliance on the "Takeuchi Document" actually placed restrictive limits on any doctrine centered on the emperor or Japan.

47. Differentiation of the concepts of "body-spirit" (mitama) and "heredity" or "descent" (shutsuji), together with the devaluing of the latter by the former, is something which occurs clearly in the post-war Tenshô Kôtai Jingûkyô. This shift can be seen in the change from the prewar slogan "immortality of the divine land" (shinshû fumetsu) to "immortality of the divine band" (shinshû fumetsu), in other words, salvation was now viewed as being dependent not on the conditions of one's birth, but rather on whether a person was truly in accord with the divine will.

48. For more information regarding Matsushita Soshindô, see my article "Matsushita Soshindô ni okeru seimei no keifu-ron" [The theory of life-lineage in Matsushita Soshindô], Nihon Bukkyô [Japanese Buddhism], No. 53 (1981), 35-52.

49. With regard to the thought and behavior of Shintô Tenkôkyo in this period, information taken from government investigations is available in the article "Shintô Tenkôkyo no seiritsu katei to tenkan dakai undô, jô" [The establishment of the Shintô Tenkôkyo, and the movement for breaking open the heavenly barrier, part 1], Shisô geppô, No. 70, (April, 1940), 1-76; part two of the same article is found in Shisô geppô, No. 71 (June, 1940), 1-73. end].

Translator's Notes

I. This article was originally published in Japanese as "Shinshûkyô ni okeru Tennôkan to yonaoshikan - Shinsei Ryûjinkai no baai," Kômoto Mitsugi, ed., Ronshû Nihon Bukkyôshi 9: Taishô Shôwa Jidai [Essays on the history of Japanese Buddhism, vol. 9: the Taishô and Shôwa eras] (Tokyo: Yûzankaku, 1988, 189-214).

II. The characters expressed here as "Tenkôkyo" are also read "Ame no karitoko" within this group; the latter reading was especially common in the pre-war period.

III. For a description of this practice, see Clark B. Offner and Henry Van Straelen, Modern Japanese Religions, With Special Emphasis upon Their Doctrines of Healing (Tokyo: Rupert Enderle, 1963), 203.

IV. The "first Ômotokyô incident" refers to the arrest of Onisaburô and suppression of Ômotokyô in 1921 on the charge of lèse majesté. This was followed by a "second incident" in 1935. For a description of these incidents see Modern Japanese Religions, 69-70; Shigeyoshi Murakami, Japanese Religion in the Modern Century, translated by H. Byron Earhart (Tokyo: University of Tokyo Press, 1980), 74-75, 96-8.

V. Kimogawa, Tanikawa Village, Kawabe-Gun, Hyôgo Prefecture.

VI. Takeuchi (also Takeshiuchi or Takenouchi) Sukune was a legendary figure from Japan's archaic history. Said to be great-grandson of Emperor Kôgen (legendary reign 214-158 B.C.E.), Sukune was known as a faithful minister to several Japanese emperors.

VII. The name Miroku is formed here from the two characters "3" (san or mi) and "6" (roku), but the name is a homophone for the buddha Maitreya (Miroku), promised to appear in a millenial future to restore the world to right.

VIII. On one level, the terms "rebuilding" tatekae and "renewal" tatenaoshi indicate the general concept of "revival," but they are not always interchangeable within the doctrinal structure of Ryûjinkai (see, in particular, the process of rebuilding and renewal as described on paragraph 53). It is for this reason I have generally attempted to maintain consistency in my use of the specific English equivalents. When the terms are used in the original Japanese to indicate merely the general concept, however, I have on occasion used generic terms like "revival" or "reconstruction" in order to avoid unnecessary repetition.

IX. Shinji, genji ni yoru uchû hôhan yori, shinsei jôju ni itaru shinkai, genkai, suishin hensen no gaikan, Nihon tennô hasshô, sekai tôri, tôri hôki, tôri fukki, shinsei tôri no keii.

X. Called the "divine rescript at the descent of the heavenly grandchild" (tenson kôrin no shinchoku), a reference to the mythical descent of Jimmu Tennô from the plain of high heaven mentioned in classics like the Kojiki and Nihongi. See for example, Donald L. Philippi (translator and annotator), Kojiki (Tokyo: University of Tokyo Press, 1968), 120, 137-8.

XI. The term mitama is ordinarily translated as merely "spirit"; I have adopted the translation "body-spirit" here in order to retain the literal sense of the non-standard character combination used within the Ryûjinkai (mi = body, tama = spirit), and also as a means of discriminating between this specific term and other words which are also rendered as "spirit."

XII. The deity Hinode no Ôkami is not identified here, but based on the likely association with the Hinode shin'yu written by Deguchi Nao's daughter, an implicit reference to Deguchi is probably intended. Since all events in the physical world were reflected by events in the spirit world, Kunitokotachi no Ôkami's withdrawal from Emperor Meiji and entry into "holy persons" could be said to have been reflected in his transferral to Deguchi's counterpart in the spirit-world, namely "Hinode no Ôkami."

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